Tuesday, May 16, 2017

B.C Rich Guitars

Bernardo C. Rico
One of the most unusual guitars that I ever played was also one of the best guitars I’ve ever played. This was an original B.C. Rich Seagull built back in the mid 1970’s when Bernie Rico and his staff were making them in his Los Angeles shop. That guitar was expensive, but it played and sounded like a dream.

Bernardo Chavez Rico aka Bernie learned about guitars from his father. Bernardo, or Bernie, was an accomplished Flamenco guitarist.

His father, Bernardo Mason Rico had purchased the store from Candelas Brothers guitar shop. The Candelas Guitar store is a legend all to itself. The store was re-christened Bernardo’s Guitar Shop.

Although Bernardo Senior was not a luthier, he was a business man. And he hired luthiers and craftsmen to do the work. It was from these men that Bernie learned his craft. The shop offered Flamenco and Classical guitars along with other stringed instruments.

'71 Rico acoustic
Many of their original guitars were made of bodies imported from Mexico which the workers sanded, finished, stained, and painted before offering them for sale. As the years rolled on, The Folk Music Craze of the early 1960’s changed the focus of the shop from nylon string instruments to steel string acoustic guitars. These were handmade using choice materials such as Brazilian rosewood, Sitka spruce, Honduran mahogany, and ebony.

Around 1968 Bernie made his first electric solid body guitar and topped it with a Fender neck.

1974 Rico Bass
This guitar and subsequent attempts had Les Paul shaped bodies. He also made bass guitars with a design based on the Gibson EB-3.

1974 B.C. Rich Seagull

Within four years Rico and a fellow employee named Bob Hall came up with the original Seagull design. By 1974 this became their first offering. Another employee named Mal Stich, inadvertently answered the phone one day by saying, “B.C. Rich”, instead of “Bernardo’s Guitar Shop”. The name stuck. Bernie Rich’s goal was to make a production line guitar with custom shop quality.


By 1977 the retail price was just under $1000 USD. But they were scarce.

The music store I frequented back in those days had 2 B.C. Rich guitars; the Seagull and the Mockingbird. Both guitars were excellent.

'74 Seagull
Oddly enough the Seagull was based on a wooden toilet seat. The body and neck were made of mahogany with neck-thru construction. The body had an exaggerated cutaway that ended in a sharp point. On the top side of the body between the upper and lower bouts was a sharp point. Rich used a Badass bridge/saddle unit. The guitar had twin humbucking pickups and the electronics were designed by Neal Moser. These included an active preamp, a Varitone control, a phase switch, coil taps, and master volume and tone controls.

'74 Seagull with Gibson pickups

At first the pickups were made by Gibson. This is because B.C. Rich guitars were originally distributed by L.D. Heater, which was a subsidiary of Gibson. This allowed them to obtain Gibson parts. However due the fact that Rich was utilizing coil taps and phase reversal on each model each Gibson pickup needed to be dissembled to be reconfigured to use four wires then put back together.

Eventually Gibson realized their pickups were being used by a competitor and put a halt to the practice.

Later models used Guild pickups, until Rich contacted Larry DiMarzio and asked if his company could produce a four wire model. From that point on B.C. Rich guitars and basses used DiMarzio pickups.

1976 B.C. Rich Eagle
The next instrument was the Eagle, which also had the neck-through-body construction and was made entirely of mahogany.. Early models included the three-on-a-side headstock, an unbound neck with rosewood fret board and inlaid position markers. The Eagle included an onboard preamp with a separate volume control and all the bells and whistles that were to be found on the Seagull. The body was more Strat-like with a double cutaway. Later models were stripped down, with a single humbucking pickup, a six-in-line headstock, and a vibrato unit.

'77 B.C. Rich Advertisement
On some instruments the body was painted with a custom colours. By this time, electric players were simplifying the guitars and relying more on pedal boards. Although the newer Eagle had the same shape, the only built-in effect was the on-board preamp, a switch to activate it, and a separate volume control.

1977 Mockingbird
The BC Rich Mockingbird was based on a shape by a guy named Johnny “Go-Go” Kessel and named by Neal Moser. The double-cutaway shape is like nothing else out there. The guitar was popularized by Joe Perry of Aerosmith. The original models were, once again, neck-through-body, and made of mahogany. The original models were gorgeous and featured twin humbucking pickups with coil tapping capability, and a built-in preamp. The six-on-a-side headstock topped the unbound neck, which had a rosewood fret board with mother of pearl inlays.

1982 Rich Bich
The Rich Bich, was another guitar based on a drawing by Johnny “Go-Go” Kessel and designed by Neal Moser. This guitar was originally offered in 1978 and like the Mockingbird, it was a truly original design. The upper bout featured twin offset pointy cutaways on the instruments neck-through-body. What set the guitar apart was the large V-shaped wedge cut out of the lower section of the guitars bottom nearest the player, The remaining section after this house the larger control section which had a small ovular cutout..

Rich Bich Electronics
Once again the guitar housed an active pre-amp and all the features found on the previously mentioned guitars. Like most of the vintage B.C. Rich guitars, this featured the three-on-a-side tuners, a rosewood neck with mother-of-pearl inlay, a Leo Quan Bad Ass bridge.

1978 Rich Bich 10 string

The reason for the large V shaped cutaway was due to the fact that this guitar was offered as a 10-string model. The wedge was designed to hold four Grover tuning pegs so that the upper four strings had double courses. These four strings had their end pieces strung into 4 metal grommets in the center of the headstock that were then attached to the pegs on the bottom of the guitar.


Bottom view of '78 Rich Bich

This upside-down concept was copied in later years by Steinberger (although his design was much different) and other manufacturers.




Trey Azagthoth Ironbird

The B.C. Rich Ironbird was designed by Joey Rico in 1983. It was in-my-opinion, a heavy metal version of the B.C. Rich Mockingbird. This instrument had a small cutaway on the upper bout and an exagerated, and pointy cutaway on the lower bout. The bottom of the guitar had two offset and pointy terminal points. The headstock was made rosewood. This guitar was popular endorsed by Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel.


Trey Azagthoth's
personal Ironbird
His personal instrument included a Dimarzio X2N in the bridge position, which was the company’s highest output pickup and a Dimarzio twin blade minihumbucker in the neck position. The strings attached to a Floyd Rose tremolo. The original Ironbird had a reverse headstock. The guitar was available with a variety of pickup configurations.





B.C. Rich Acrylic
The B.C. Rich Acrylic guitar was based on the Ampeg Dan Armstrong Lucite guitar concept. B.C. Rich took a number of their models, including the Mockingbird and the Warlock and used acrylic material for the bodies instead of wood. While the Dan Armstrong model only came in a clear transparent model, the B.C. Rich transparent models had different colours for their guitars. These guitars were manufactured in Korea and did not have all the features of the earlier B.C. Rich models.

An interesting feature of the Acrylic guitars is the neck joint. This was called IT (invisibolt technology) which allowed the neck to be bolted inside the body, to give it the appearance of a neck-through, however the neck was actually a bolt-on type.

BC Rich Warlock prototype
The B.C. Rich Warlock was designed by Bernie Rico in 1981 and based on the Bich. The original model came with a mahogany body and neck, which was topped with a three-on-a-side headstock.

1988 BC Rich Warlock
Some models did have a six-on-a-side reverse headstock. This was later changed to a unique headstock design. The neck was bound on the rosewood fretboard and topped with mother-of-pearl inlays. Some models came with a Floyd Rose Trem system. All came with twin Dimarzio humbuckers.

Warlock II


The Warlock II came out the following year.




BC Rich Wave




The BC Rich Wave guitar was designed by Martin Evans and made for only a brief period of time. It was reminiscent of the Mockingbird, but with exaggerated features such as a small wave-like cutaway on the instruments bottom.




BC Rich Stealth 7


The unique B.C, Rich Stealth guitar was designed by Rick Derringer. It featured twin Dimarzio pickups, a reverse headstock and the usual features found on earlier models. Subsequent production Stealth guitars deleted most of these features and came with only a bridge humbucking pickup.




Widow Bass


The B.C. Rich Widow bass was designed by Blackie Warless. It resembled an insect with its twin symmetrical upper and lower horns. The bottom section of the body needed an additional block section to hold the bridge saddle unit.

Some significant events for the company occurred in 1984.



1984 BC Rich US Series Mockingbird

The Korean connection led to the introduction of the U.S. Series. These were essentially Korean manufactured guitar kits, with bolt-on necks, that were shipped to California for assembly.



Condor



This was the year that the Condor was also introduced. This was a lovely guitar with a flamed maple top on a mahogany body. It was made in Japan.







BC Rich Fat Bob bass and guitar
The bizarre Fat Bob guitar and bass were introduced this same year. This guitar may have been a product of Bernie Rico’s love of motorcycles and motorcycle embellishments, as it resembled the flamed design decals found on hot-rodded motorcycles.

This guitar had an odd triangular shape, with a single Dimarzio pickup, a six-on-a-side headstock, and a Floyd-Rose tremolo.

Mel Stich
It was in 1984 that Mel Stich left the company. The following year Neal Moser left.

In 1987 Bernie Rich entered into an agreement with Randy Watuch’s company called Class Axe. This allowed Class Axe to market and distribute some of Rich’s guitar lines, thus leading to some foreign made models.

By 1989 Rich had turned over all of the licensing rights.

That year B.C. Rich guitars moved from California to New Jersey. The guys that were working at the L.A. shop continued to make handmade guitars under the logo LPC Guitars. This venture failed.

BC Rich Virgin Guitars and Basses
Though the majority of Class Axe made B.C. Rich guitars were outsourced, the company did produce The Virgin, which was handmade. Dealers and customers were begging for handmade products.

In 1993 Bernie Rico returned to making handmade guitars when the licensing agreement ran out. Ed Roman of Roman Guitars of Las Vegas purchased the left over stock from Class Axe.

He relocated the shop to Hesperia California.

By 1995 Bernie returned to making acoustic guitars, including the B-41C.

The Ignitor




In 1995 the Ignitor and the V were added to the line up.







1998 Victor Smith Commemoritive

In 1998 the Exclusive, the Victor Smith Commemorative Model, and the Beast were added.

The following year, B.C, Rich added a seven string version of the Warlock.

On December 3rd of 1999, Bernie Rico died of a heart attack.

The company was taken over  to his son Bernie Jr. Under his direction control of the company, B.C. Rich, was sold given to the Hanser Music Group in 2001. They began making guitars under the Rico Jr. name.

Bernie Rico Jr.
Bernie Rico Jr is still involved with some current B.C. Rich custom-shop guitars. In 2014, JAM Industries of Quebec Canada took over Hanser Incorporated, aka Davitt and Hanser.

Asian manufactured B.C. Rich guitars are still being distributed by Davitt and Hanser, as a subsidiary of JAM Industries.

Click the links under the pictures for the sources. Click the links in the text for further information.

©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)







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